The solution to struggling high streets? More car shows

SORRY, Arriva and Stagecoach, but you’re just going to have to re-route Southport’s busiest bus routes. The heart of Birkdale village works so much better when it’s full of old Morgans and MGs.

That’s the conclusion I came away with after stopping off last Saturday for the Birkdale Village Summer Fayre – it had a fairly sizeable car display, which in itself is nothing unusual, but I’ve got to applaud the powers-that-be for being bold enough to shut off the bit of Liverpool Road right by the station to make it happen.

I’ve been to plenty of shows over the years where it’s the centre of a town or village itself that becomes the venue, as opposed to a nearby playing field or pub car park, and I know it takes a special sort of perseverance to make it happen. There’s a great show in Prestatyn which has been cordoning off key bits of prime North Wales shopping territory for its Bank Holiday show, and I know that closer to home the Ormskirk MotorFest has made the trick of shutting off the town’s one-way system its schtick.

In every instance the result’s the same; the place is jam-packed with people shuffling through for a closer look. People, who I’m delighted to report, also seemed to be cheerily assembled around the tables outside every restaurant, pub and café within a half-mile radius. I’m sure there’ll be a meeting of Birkdale’s various movers and shakers in the next few days and something vaguely official to confirm it, but I’d be amazed if all those families who duly hopped off Merseyrail’s finest for a closer look didn’t treat the village to one of its busiest trading days this year.

It’s good from a petrolhead perspective too; if you’re reading this there’s a sporting chance you’ll already know exactly what a 1949 Riley RMA looks like, but for me the real highlight was hearing all the assorted ooohs and ahhhs from folk who don’t. Same goes for the 1960 MGA parked up on the other side of Liverpool Road. If you’re a small child who’s been brought up on nothing but Kia Cee’ds then I can’t think of better-looking example of what proper cars, with delicate curves, chrome bumpers and rumbling exhaust notes, look and sound like.

I’d also like to share with you, in the interests of fair and balanced reporting, some of the views of the many people who enjoyed the 60 cars on show…but I can’t because I was too busy ogling the 1974 Lamborghini Espada that one of the exhibitors had brought along.

Any village centre that has an Espada – which is considerably cooler than any Countach or Diablo – in it has got to be worth visiting, so I reckon in the interests of supporting local businesses it should be made a permanent fixture. Apologies, bus users, you’ll just have to put up with being re-routed…

Mercedes X-Class – the perfect car for Southport’s golfers

The new Mercedes X-Class could be the wheels of choice for the next Open

IT FEELS like the population of Southport’s halved over the last few days. Apparently all the people who’ve just vacated the resort were here for something called ‘the golf’ – and I don’t mean the Volkswagen hatchback, either.

The one thing that did strike me during the North West’s moment in the international sporting spotlight was that virtually everyone seemed to travel to the Royal Birkdale in either a series of commandeered Stagecoach double-deckers, or in a black Mercedes. It felt like every other car was a black E-Class with tinted rear windows.

The Benz blokes have obviously thrown a lot at The Open, which is why it surprised me enormously that it didn’t bring along its latest model. It claims the X-Class is the first pick-up truck from a premium manufacturer, but that’s not entirely the case.

Firstly, the posh pick-up from a luxury carmaker isn’t a new idea, because both Cadillac and Lincoln have already tried it (albeit with virtually no success, which is why they never sold them over here). Secondly, the trimmings might be Mercedes’ finest but the bones most definitely aren’t; keep it quiet, but the X-Class is essentially a Nissan Navara. So I suspect all the building site operatives who actually buy pick-ups are probably going to stick with the cheaper Japanese original.

So who’s going to buy the X-Class? Originally I’d suspected it’d be perfect for anyone who appears in or produces hip hop videos, but I can’t imagine there are too many of those in Formby or Parbold (Straight Outta Crosby does have a nice ring to it, though). Nor is it going to appeal to the sort of managing director types who normally go for big, German off-roaders, because the ML-Class already does it without relying on pick-up truck underpinnings.

But – and this is why I think Mercedes missed a trick at The Open – it has plenty of potential as a golfer’s chariot of choice. It has a sufficiently posh badge to mix it with the Jaguars and BMWs in the club car park, more than enough room inside to take four of your chums out for a quick round, and with it being a pick-up there’s plenty of room out back for all the sets of clubs you’ll ever need. Pack carefully and you could even bring your own golf buggy with you!

I can’t wait for the golf to come back to Southport, because the resort is going to be rammed with X-Class Mercs.